"Eden Is West" Is A Soft Farce On Europe's Fears

Chief among Europe's subliminal fears these days is invasion by waves of illegal immigrants. This neurosis forms the heart of "Eden Is West," a new film by Greek director Constantin Costa-Gavras that opened the London Human Rights Watch Film Festival last week. The film's hero is Elias (Riccardo Scarmacio), who crosses the Aegean Sea in a cargo ship full of migrants. They've all been promised the Eden of Europe, and Elias's goal is to get to Paris, a supposed paradise of prosperity and hospitality. But the French police intercept the migrants; when Elias manages to elude them, he ends up beached in a gated resort, trying desperately to remain incognito while rich tourists take part in a manhunt for the remaining fugitives—just for fun.

The topic is a prickly one, and the film is not without its dark, squalid moments (at one point, Elias is forced to unblock a stopped-up toilet with his bare hands). But for the most part, Costa-Gavras softens his immigrant fable with subtle farce, serving up a host of humorous characters for Elias to meet: a blond German lover, a superficial magician, a feisty Greek couple, a bumbling Italian villager, a posh Parisian. Each is a manifestation of Europe's contradictory reactions to the alien Other—at turns welcoming, fascinated, fearful and hostile.

"Eden Is West" Is A Soft Farce On Europe's Fears | World